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Why the Queen doesn't own a license and doesn't need one to drive

The 91-year-old monarch trained as a driver and mechanic during the Second World War

by Ainhoa Barcelona

At the age of 91, the Queen is still comfortable behind the wheel and insists on driving herself to and from locations, mainly around her private estates. She most recently climbed into the driver's seat to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show last week, where she was pictured perfectly at ease in her Range Rover. As part of the "royal prerogative" – powers and rights that the sovereign alone possesses – Her Majesty is the only person in the UK who can drive without a license, even though driving licenses are issued in her name. Among her many privileges, she has never needed to take a driving test and is allowed to drive without a number plate on her state car.

The royal first developed her motoring skills as a teenager in the Second World War, when she joined the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service as an honorary second subaltern. The then-Princess Elizabeth, 18, trained as a driver and a mechanic, learning how to change a wheel, rebuild engines and drive ambulances and trucks. She earned a reputation for not being afraid to get her hands dirty, and five months later, the royal was promoted to honorary junior commander in the summer of 1945.

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Her Majesty is the only person in the UK who can drive without a license

The car-loving Queen isn't afraid to show off her skills either. In 1998, she famously shocked King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was then a prince, when she insisted on driving him herself around the royal Balmoral estate in Scotland. Former British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles recounted the meeting in the Sunday Times, saying: "As instructed, the crown prince climbed into the front seat of the front Land Rover, with his interpreter in the seat behind. To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off. Women are not – yet – allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen."

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The royal trained as a driver and a mechanic during World War Two

The diplomat added: "His nervousness only increased as the Queen, an army driver in wartime, accelerated the Land Rover along the narrow Scottish estate roads, talking all the time. Through his interpreter, the crown prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead."

GALLERY: A look at the Queen's royal residences

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The Queen is a fan of Bentleys, Jaguars, Land Rovers and Range Rovers

Protocol dictates that the monarch is usually chauffeured to engagements, but when she is not in public view, the Queen likes to reclaim her position in the driver's seat. She is believed to have helped her children learn how to drive, particularly in the rural grounds of Balmoral, her favoured place for driving. A fan of rugged Land Rovers and Range Rovers, the Queen is able to drive off-road, which is ideal for shooting parties and summer picnics. Other British brands she uses are Bentley and Jaguar, and her whole car collection is said to be worth £10m upwards.

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